Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rust & Bone

The twirly melodrama of Rust & Bone, directed and co-written by Jacques Audiard, is fascinated by the severed limbs and broken psyches of it's main characters.  Audiard, through his last French hits A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped has emerged as one of the freshest and most direct of international auteurs with his swishy, yet fluid, nearing on poetic strikes with the camera-- coupled with a mature, yet even handed take on human drama.  Rust & Bone is notable mostly in its flourishes-- immerse but beautifully wrought camera work, the near fetishistic look at his actors pained and broken body parts, the silly bit of slight transcendence while a Katy Perry song plays in the background-- here's a case where you have a film, made with abundant sincerity, graced with actors willing and certainly capable of exposing nakedly personal portraits; a film unsentimental until it isn't, un-romantic until it isn't, bewitching but at arms length-- a bold cinematic curiosity that never quite reaches into ones soul.  What's left is a marvelously well-crafted and well performed film that never quite reaches the sum of its parts, perhaps because they weren't as well filled as they could have or should have been in the first place.

When the film debuted at last summer's Cannes Film Festival, it seemed to ignite a media firestorm for it's actress Marion Cotillard.  The Oscar-honored French beauty, the same who's nearly become a Hollywood movie star returning to her native land for a hard hitting film from one of her countryman's most newly respected.  The content of the film seemed secondary-- other than the fact that the famous lady was playing a whale trainer at a Sea World-like aquatic park who loses both her legs in a freak killer whale accident.  Behind that hubbub is a subtle and beguiling performance that holds because of what Cotillard keeps from us; that mystery and sense of wonder.  Aside from a few shrieks of "What has happened" shock, her Stephanie is creation of both the enchanting actress and the filmmakers is one that never asks nor pleas for sympathy and one that has no need for the typical rounds of disability anguish.  All dare to make her unlikable even at times, but mostly just human.

Perhaps the other major surprise at first sight of Rust & Bone is that Cotillard's tale was merely one part, or perhaps even a little less than that if running time math matters any.  Before the accident, Stephanie meets Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a hulking brute, while she's teasing and inciting barroom fights as a local club where he is a bouncer.  Ali's bruises are first met as emotional, not that he will share them, as he along with his young, estranged son move in with his sister, of whom he has a contentious relationship with, until the once amateur boxer finds an easier source of income in kicking the crap out of guys in backyard melees.  Schoenaerts matches Cotillard round for round as the two take up an unlikely friendship, one that leads to emotional and spiritual healing, but not in the way one may expect.  Both characters are at odds with their lives, if not with each other-- the find a small salvage in the arms of one another perhaps if nothing else because they've both become stagnate and estranged in themselves.  Audiard puts aside any easily digestible sense of courtship as the two become bed mates, and invariably turned on their bruised bodies.  It's a movie still through and through-- legs or not and scenes with muted make-up, Cotillard is still breathless, and with bruises and black-eyes, Schoenaerts still a catch.

There's brief respites of the ethereal, especially when Ali takes Stephanie out in the ocean for the first time, and a gracious rapport between the actors, but their afflictions, as well as their emotions feel strangely aloof.  And as Rust & Bone edges on, the film becomes more improbable, reaching to an additional third act tragedy until it reaches an even more improbable glimpse of a happy ending.  Audiard's filmmaking is seductive, and alternately alluring and electric, but in the end there's precious little to linger on aside from the beauty of it's leading actors.  B 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...